Dragonlance: Dragons Of Dorm Room Night

I’m a huge fantasy fan. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, however. I usually wait for years, letting my friends pare it down to a good series here and there, and then break down and read it all in one go. I wasn’t always so cautious, however. I once read D & D novels. I recently went back and reread a series of stories of my youth. The classic “we did this awesome D & D campaign let’s write it down!” story, the Dragonlance Chronicles. It was really fun to read, and I had forgotten a ton of it. It was a slightly better cribbing of the Tolkien story than I remembered, in truth. The writing is really not terribly good, but they take the basic premise of the story of Lord of the Rings and insert some fun spins. They don’t flesh out any of the characters, so it really does read like a late night adventure with stoned college kids. I’m okay with that, in small doses, so I had a really fun time following along again. The story, if you don’t feel like bothering wikipedia, is this: A band of adventurers come together in a world threatened by evil dragons, and find proof that the “old gods” exist. Together with help from the good dragons, they restore balance to the world. There are the typical D & D type characters. A half-elf, a warrior, his mage brother, a dwarf, a knight, and some strange hobbit rip off, a kender. Oh and there are some barbarians too. (I never got that archetype. What the hell makes a barbarian different than a warrior? He doesn’t use a fork?)

They manage a few really fun scenes, fighting dragons and rescuing people. The two brothers of the story, Caramon and Raistlin, have some nice moments. I can’t help but read everything the half-elf leader says in a Kirk voice. (“WE…must get them to safety… I AM… responsible!”) The writing is very stilted and unnatural, but they really run with some of the story elements. My only real problem is the central theme of triumphing over the evil armies is a little undercut by the epilogue of the book, where one of the “old gods” goes on about the balance of the universe. (I put old gods in quotes because there are no new gods… another quibble I have with the writing.)

Apparently, as this old god would have us believe, good is inherently intolerant and self absorbed, so it needs evil to be around to remind it why to fight. The elves are the example, because see they are good and they became self absorbed and turned from the world. That makes perfect sense see, because… What?! Wait, not to get all philosophy 101 on you here, but isn’t a basic tenet of our conception of “good” an outward focus, away from egotism and towards service and selflessness? You can’t just redefine good in order to justify having bastards around! That’s cheating!

But seriously, they didn’t try and write a masterpiece here, just a fun Tolkien rip off. And they did that. It’s pretty fun. The dwarf is Gimli 2.0, right down to some exact dialogue, and the kender is Merry or Pippin. The half-elf is Kirk, so that’s odd, but you have Sturm the Aragorn, and there’s a girl Legolas. (Like the movie Lord of the Rings! But I kid Orlando Bloom.) For a real intense read I’ll take Tolkien, or my new modern favorite, Jim Butcher, but for silly light entertainment when you’re not up for a serious read, this is perfect. Which I imagine is exactly why they wrote it. Good for them.

Now check out this truly atrocious animated version!


Thunder Thunder Thunder Thunder… Cats! Thundercats, Why?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, my son has a bizarre interest in strange or awful cartoons. Recently he discovered one from my youth, Thundercats. It is way odder than I remember. Unlike the broader social messages of He-Man, Thundercats is more about a dimwitted man child, Liono, and the little lessons he learns as he grows up. This seems very strange, since he appears to be thirty, but okay, I’ll accept it. Combine it with the surreal Rankin/Bass animation, some mummies and mutants, and you have a mid-eighties romp into madness.

Viri loves it. He’s been drawing Thundercats, playing that he is a human/cat thing, the whole shebang. (That always weirded me out about the show– are they can people? Why no tails? Why no fur?) There is one episode with a space-policewoman, which he is crazy about, as you would expect. Police, laser guns, and cat people? Viri heaven!

The premise of the show has always confused me. These cat people are on some strange planet. I’m not sure why they are there, or why they brought the ghost of a dead leader. How do they survive with only one woman? (That’s a very Ryan question, I apologize.) Why is the man named Tygra, which is clearly a woman’s name? The whole show is crazy, it doesn’t surprise me that it is quickly becoming Taviri’s favorite. His taste tends towards the bizarre.

Here is a fun fan trailer of a Thundercats movie.

NLCS And No Guys Named Melky

The baseball playoffs are one of the highlights of my year. This year, oddly enough, I get to watch every game of the Championship Series, due to sick kids. So, I’m sorry you are sick, kids, but thanks for making me stay home. I’ll clean up puke if it means watching some great games. And there have been some great ones. The NLCS is really the one to watch, as the Angels/Yankees ALCS has been both less exciting and way more filled with guys with dumb names. And the cursed visage of Dark Lord A-rod.

It’s almost over, and it looks like a Phillies/Yankees World Series is in the cards. That’s fine; I’d much prefer Angels/Phillies, but it’s okay. The Phils are a great team to watch, fast, great offense. I’m rooting for them to destroy the Yankees, of course. Like all moral and right thinking human beings, I root against the Yankees. There is simply not a choice. And as fun as a Dodgers/Yankees WS would be, the Phils have a better chance to beat the Yankees. I would get a chance to say Trolley Dodgers a million times, which is fun. Baseball teams, because of the era in which they formed, still have the greatest nicknames. Trolley Dodgers, Red Sox. Did they spell things differently in 1900? Cincinnati is simply the Reds. Wonderful. Even the worst names aren’t as bad as NBA or NFL names. (Grizzlies? Jaguars? Don’t just pick a tough sounding animal, sports. That doesn’t work.)

I’m hoping to see every World Series game, if work and kids allow. Every year, the Series provides a perfect gateway into the winter season. It’s coming later and later in the fall, and it makes me want to just curl up and eat cookies and rest until spring. I’m ready to grow my beard back, put on a few fun holiday pounds (Halloween counts right? And new years? I can legally gain weight until April) and enjoy my winter. Even the flu and cold blues won’t sink me this year. I’m excited, catching some great baseball, and ready to lounge.

Thirty Three, The Adult Hobbit

I’m officially an adult today. Thirty three years old. It’s a good age. I’m happy to be here. I feel better than ever, in terms of my emotional and mental health. My life is a little insane, but that’s okay. I don’t imagine I’m able to function in any life that isn’t insane, certainly. Any more than I’m capable of ending a sentence without using an adverb…really.

I got a ton of nice birthday wishes today, which is awesome. It makes me glad to have the access to people that I have through this interweb series of tubes. I got emails, messages, texts… it was cool. I had a sick baby girl, so I spent a lot of the day holding her sleeping body, so the messages were especially welcome.

That’s pretty much what I have to say. I’m happy and filled with love, which as always doesn’t make for good art, but makes for damn fine birthday living.

Tomorrow, the suffering that is Dragonlance; painful and hard to wade through, therefore probably a good blog post. Ironic. Or silly, at least.

Age, Football, Illness

Well, my kids are getting into the heart of cold and flu season in style. Meaning, I had a child vomiting on me all night. But, as luck would have it, we also got our cable hooked up this weekend, so I got to hold a feverish boy while watching baseball playoffs and football games. So, it was not so bad. I got a chance to see some good games, even though the cursed Yankees won.

I’m enjoy sports more than I ever have before. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I have a few ideas. One, I get older and the superficial, us vs. them mentality falls away. Two, I see lessons in people working hard and finding success through their skills. As a youth, it’s easy to write off what people do that makes them successful. I not only respect the players and coaches more, I respect everyone involved. It takes work to be good at what you do. I respect a lot of people now that I never did; I know it isn’t easy to get up and get your work done. (‘Yours’ work as Viri used to say.)

Another big reason is the insanity of my week. I’m working a lot, watching different kids. It takes a lot of energy. So, it’s nice to have something I can enjoy that is low stakes. It’s fun to just watch a game, and not really worry for a few hours about money, or illness. I can just relax, cuddle up to a child, and save my energy for the week. As I write this, Arkaedi Sue is snuggled into my lap, half asleep. It’s a great way to unwind after a long week.

Get well, kids. Crawl up here and watch some sports with Papa. I’m that kind of dad now.

Buttons? What Are These Buttons Of Which You Speak?

I’ve heard different ideas about the relationship that my generation has to technology, and how that affects the generation gap. In some ways we do seem to be more tech savvy, and we keep up with modern gadgets well. On the other hand, any child can kill me at video games. So, is it furthering the gap or narrowing it? I don’t know. I do know my son is growing up in a very different world, technologically, than I did.

When I was his age, it was September of 1980. It was the blessed evening before the terrible dawn of the Reagan era. No one had cell phones, computers were not common. In many ways, large and small, Viri would find the world different. I don’t know what Seattle looked like then. Fewer coffee places. No wi-fi. But it would have been different. And that was not really that long ago. When he’s 33, it will be 2038. I’ll really have to reach back to describe the world of 1980, I imagine.

Two funny things that made me think of this happened this week. First, we were in a public restroom, washing up. Viri waved his hands under the faucet, and nothing happened. “No, you turn these. Like at home.” He scowled at me. “No, Papa, these are broken. You don’t touch them.” I realized he was right. I don’t know if he has ever touched a faucet outside of someone’s home. They all are automatic. He asks me, usually, about lights and toilets and faucets, do these go by themselves or do we touch them? To a three year old me, that would have been fantastic. I don’t know if anything like that even existed in 1980. I certainly didn’t see it. The doors opening by themselves at the grocery store were still pretty amazing to me.

The other thing was a video game. He found an old game boy, and was pretending to play it. It was fun, he said, you play it too. So, I grabbed it, and pressed the buttons and played along. “No, Papa! What are you doing?” He took it back, and started showing me how you play the game: by touching the screen, and moving your finger to make the man move. Buttons? Ridiculous outmoded things!

It’s fun to watch this. Since I’m not much of a technological person, my kids are going to quickly outpace me. I’m not going to mind. I’ll make them set everything up, and shout for them to help me. I don’t care if I’m fifty, as soon as possible I’m leaping straight to seventy-nine. I’ll refuse to call their spouses by name as well. And make them help.

“Viri wife! Pretty-pretty husband! Get in here and make the tv work! I wanna watch the game!”
“Um, Ryan, you’re fifty-two. Here’s the remote.”
“What the hell’s a ‘remote,’ boy? Just make it work!”
“Man, you’re lucky your daughter is so great.”
“Shut up, Pretty-pretty husband!”

That’s exactly how it’ll go.

Dancing Meditation In San Fran

My Sufi order had a meeting in San Francisco, a celebration of the life of our previous master, and I got to go. It was, as usual, amazing. The Sufi house there is huge, with a diverse and committed group of darvishes. This meeting, due to the emotions involved and the fact that it was the only one on the west coast, was particularly high energy and inspiring. Even with everything else, and the rushing around and the work, the darvishes there still went out of their way to talk to me, make me welcome. I have never seen a better group of sincere men, I think, than that one. I’m extraordinarily grateful to them for being who they are. I can’t share too many details, since it is primarily a matter for initiated members of the order, but I wanted to mention it for a few reasons. For one, it gives me an excuse to encourage everyone to check out the order, which I cannot recommend highly enough. And for another, the flights down and back reminded me of exactly why I am who I am, and made me a little happier to have made the choices I had made.

The flight down was filled with families visiting friends and relatives. It was an interesting plane ride, and it made me miss my kids, who I’d just said goodbye to hours before. I really like having a family, and every experience I have makes me glad I choose to have one, and didn’t sit on a plane wishing I had. You get a chance, and you take it. That’s a recipe for a happy life. The flight back was the same lesson; corporate douches discussing how much they drink and sales meetings. If I had taken one of these office jobs, you would not be reading this blog. My internet presence would instead be news stories about how I’d gunned down my office mates for saying “synergy” one time too many.

I’ve made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. But every time a real life decision, one that really shaped my life, was there before me, I took a shot. There is only one I would take back, which could have changed my life, but even that worked out for the best. (Still, you can’t help wonder ‘what if?’ with a moment or two over thirty odd years.)

Next week I turn thirty three. I’m an adult, in hobbit terms. (In Sufi terms I think I need to wait until forty.) I’m happy where I am. I love my kids and my wife. I even like my job. I’m broke, but that’s okay. Not bad for thirty three. I’ll take it.

SInce I can’t share a lot of the amazing music and dancing and poetry and friendship I experienced this weekend, here is something I can share. A poem by the late master. Enjoy.

“From everything we were or were not, we are free, with Love
The heart remained tied to your passion, with Love
Love alone, was the goal of our journey
Free from all other we rested, with Love.”
— Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

Everyone’s Your Friend In New York City

There are a few places that I consistently fantasize about visiting. I even fantasize about living there, having a place, getting to explore it. Most of these places are places I have already lived, and wish to return to explore in greater depth, such as Hiroshima, Japan. Some are places I visited, briefly, and would like to experiment with living there, such as Nice, France. The one in the latter category that I have been focused on a lot lately is NY, NY.

I’m not sure why I have had such interest. Something about NYC is fixed in American mythos. It’s everything I love about America, diverse, huge, and intense. It has stories that have shaped the rest of the country, and I feel like I know it in a way that most places I have visited I do not. And I know, really, that I don’t know it; the mystery adds to the fascination. It isn’t a place to live with kids, in my opinion, so I don’t imagine I will ever explore it like I want to. I don’t have the money or the time to spend a year there, which is what it would take to even begin to understand it.

One reason I am fascinated is that I have become such a city person, here in Seattle. And Seattle, being a small city, makes me want to visit the east coast big brothers that it emulates. The first thoughts of the Americans who came here were on building the NYC of the west. It didn’t come close to happening, of course. It’s too far away, it didn’t have the position as a trading center that NYC had from almost the beginning. Really until the past thirty years, Seattle was barely a city. It has grown, in positive and negative ways. (Light rail! Yay! I-5 is a parking lot! Boo!) But it can never be the beating heart of the country that NYC has been and will likely to continue to be.

Some of this may have to do with the history. But that’s not the whole story. Every modern story I see about the city draws me in as well. It’s still fascinating. I would love to see the past of the city, but the present excites me too. The vitality of the city, in my awe-struck limited time there, is real. I don’t imagine I’ll get a chance to really walk the streets in the way I want to, but it’s still fun to imagine the place from the perspective of a resident, pavement under my boots, and noise and lights all around.

Gumby Is Twisted And Evil

My son has a habit, a habit which, in retrospect, I think I may have had. This is the habit of finding the strangest pop phenomena he can possibly discover and then falling head over heels for it. The current oddity, hands down the winner of the craziest thing I have ever seen (non-sexual category) is the Gumby shorts collection he found at the library. It’s a dvd of various shorts from the sixties and seventies.

First of all, it is poorly done claymation, which seems creepy even with a normal storyline. But when you add in Gumby and Pokey walking through books, exploring different worlds, and visiting other cultures, it opens up to a whole wonderland of brain damaging ridiculousness. One episode, “Rain Spirits,” features Native Americans that would be a little racist if they made any sense at all. The episode ends with some shaman looking guy spanking a goat. Seriously. That memory is burned into my mind with piercing clarity. There is another one about a bee that build crates around things. To… trap them? I’m really not sure where that bee fits into God’s plan.

Naturally, Viri is smitten. I wish I understood why my son is so fascinated with this late sixties, early seventies madness. He’s not even four, so I hope it isn’t some viral, pre-irony infection. I did force him to wear a Sex Pistols onesie. If I infected him with irony, I am truly and profoundly sorry. I doubt it; I think he is just a weird and confusing boy. (Still, my fault. Sorry.)

As a parent, you have two options with odd children. You can be upset by it, and dread the Gumby episode where the horse sprouts wings and flies for no apparent reason. (Dad of daughter on flying horse: “Hmm. The horse flies.” WHAT?! That’s it?) Or, you can take my route, and embrace it. I’m going to get him whatever cartoon he wants to see, pop some popcorn, and go along for the ride. My only caveat: no more goat spanking. That really isn’t so much to ask, now, is it?